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Investment confidence awaits vaccine boost – REMI Network – Real Estate Management Industry Network

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A surging second wave of COVID-19 tempered investment confidence in commercial real estate during the fourth quarter of 2020. Newly released results of the REALPAC/FPL Canadian Real Estate Sentiment Survey finds participating senior executives expressing slightly less optimism in market conditions than exhibited three months earlier. Notably, though, data was collected in October before the confirmation of approved vaccines.

In assessing both survey responses and accompanying insight from interviews with more than 50 influential Canadian players, analysts with FPL Advisory Group conclude that some indicators aren’t telling much of a story. In particular, the survey’s conventional focus on real estate asset pricing has shifted more to macro-level observations, but there are more details to report on access to capital.

“Transaction volume remains low, resulting in inconclusive asset valuations. Distressed transaction activity has yet to emerge in Canada,” the survey summary states. “Lenders remain active. There is an increased level of scrutiny during the due diligence process with many less willing to engage in higher risk investments. Equity capital is available; however, investors are increasingly discerning when evaluating investment track records and leverage ratios.”

Analysts also suggest “uncertainty” characterized the October snapshot, but that came with some perspective on a potential stabilizing force. “Many remain hopeful that a vaccine is imminent,” they advise.

Survey respondents — representing owners, asset managers and affiliated professional service providers in all property sectors — collectively nudged the overall index score down to 43 on a scale of 100. Confidence ebbed in both current and future market dynamics compared to the third quarter outlook.

Canadian executives were somewhat more positive about current conditions than were their U.S. counterparts — delivering an index score of 28 versus the U.S. consensus at 27. However, Canadian expectations for a future bounce-back were more modest — translating into an index score of 58 compared to the U.S. score of 61.

Nearly one-third of Canadian respondents deemed market conditions in the fourth quarter to be “much worse” than they had been 12 months earlier. That’s a significant jump from the 13 per cent expressing that view in Q3. Nevertheless, there was a small gain in respondents who perceived conditions were “much better”— climbing to 14 per cent from 10 per cent in Q3.

A larger share of respondents expected a longer-lasting downturn, with 27 per cent suggesting that market conditions will be somewhat or much worse by Q4 2021 compared to 23 per cent in Q3. Accordingly, fewer respondents foresaw “somewhat better” times ahead, with 47 per cent making that prognosis for 12 months in the future versus 51 per cent in Q3. A steady 18 per cent of respondents in both quarters predicted conditions would be about the same one year hence.

Despite the lack of transactions, 86 per cent of respondents pegged asset values at somewhat or much lower than they had been one year earlier. That’s an increase from 72 per cent expressing that view in Q3, which also encompasses a sizeable jump — from 6 to 24 per cent — in the quotient calling values much worse. Looking forward, 35 per cent of respondents expect asset values to drop further during the next 12 months, while 39 per cent of respondents expect “somewhat” improvement. That’s also more pessimistic than Q3.

The report’s selection of anonymous quotes from leading industry sources reiterate many common themes of 2020, including preference for industrial and multi-residential assets, the pandemic’s hard hit on already struggling retail assets and unease about tenants’ prolonged absences from office space. Those are consistent trends among lenders and equity investors, as industry sources note that wariness of office and retail assets is serving up competitive jockeying to lend on industrial and multi-residential assets. Alternative lenders are also forging more presence in the market.

Generally, respondents reported more hurdles to secure capital in Q4, with 69 per cent gauging it was somewhat or much more difficult to get debt financing and 67 per cent saying it was more difficult to obtain equity capital than it was in Q4 2019. Looking forward, 56 per cent anticipate that equity capital will be somewhat or much more abundant by Q4 2021, while 45 per cent expect lenders will be somewhat or much more amenable.

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Quebec pension giant Caisse takes $33.6 billion investment hit in worst markets in 50 years – Financial Post

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Pension fund writes off $150-million investment in bankrupt Celsius

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The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec posted a negative return of 7.9 per cent for the first six months of the year, in what chief executive Charles Emond noted was the worst period for stock and bond markets over the past 50 years.

As of June 30, the Caisse had net assets of $392 billion, with the $28.2-billion decrease due to investment losses of $33.6 billion offset by $5.4 billion in net deposits. The losses included a full write off of the fund’s US$150 million investment in crypto lender Celsius Network LLC, which is now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the United States.

“The first six months of the year were very challenging,” Emond said in a statement. “The mix of factors we faced had not been witnessed in several decades: spiking inflation that triggered rapid and sharp interest rate hikes, rare simultaneous corrections in both stock and bond markets, fears of an economic downturn and the war in Ukraine with its many collateral effects.”

Over the same period, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board reported a positive return of 1.2 per cent on Monday.

During a news conference Wednesday to discuss the Caisse results, Emond said the Quebec pension fund wrote off the Celsius crypto investment even though it is considering its legal options and intends to preserve its rights in the court-monitored U.S. bankruptcy proceedings.

“We decided to take it now” out of prudence, Emond said of the writeoff. “The last chapter hasn’t been written.”

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He said his team conducted extensive due diligence with outside experts and consultants. They were aware of management and regulatory issues at Celsius and underestimated the time it would take to resolve them, he said, adding the Caisse was keen on “seizing the potential of block chain technology” and perhaps the investment in Celsius had been made “too soon” in the company’s development.

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He noted that the investment was a very small part of a large venture portfolio that has produced 35 per cent returns over the past five years.

“In these disruptive technologies, there’s ups and downs…. Some big winners and many losers,” Emond said.

Although the Caisse posted an overall return in negative territory for the first six months of the year, the performance exceeded that of its benchmark portfolio — which posted a negative return of 10.5 per cent.

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“Over five and 10 years, annualized returns were 6.1 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively, also outpacing benchmark portfolio returns,” the pension manager noted.

Emond said the Caisse is managing the “turbulence” with a combination of asset diversification and strategic adjustments made since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“For the past two years, we’ve been working in an environment of extremes characterized by particularly fast and pronounced changes. These unusual and unstable conditions will persist for some time,” he said.

“In the short term, we’ll be watching what central banks do to contain inflation and how that impacts the economy.”

  1. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan board eked out a 1.2 per cent return in the first half of the year.

    Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board ekes out small return in ‘difficult’ markets

  2. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board reported a 4.2 per cent loss, equivalent to $23 billion, for the three months ending June 30.

    CPPIB breaks winning streak with $23-billion loss amid ‘market turbulence’

  3. In July, crypto lender Celsius Network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and owes users about US$4.7 billion.

    Canadian watchdogs join probe of Celsius’ multi-billion-dollar collapse, sources say

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During the first six months of the year, negative returns in equities and fixed income were partially offset by gains in the Caisse’s investments in real assets including infrastructure and real estate.

The pension giant posted a negative return of 13.1 per cent in fixed income, which beat the negative 15.1 per cent return for its benchmark portfolio. This represented nearly $3 billion in “value added” attributable to all credit activities, the Caisse said.

A negative return of 16 per cent in equities beat the negative 17.2 per cent return in the benchmark portfolio.

The Caisse’s real estate and infrastructure portfolios, meanwhile, generated a 7.9 per cent six-month return, “demonstrating their diversifying role which contributes to limiting inflation’s impact on the total portfolio.”

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The real asset class performance also beat the benchmark portfolio’s return, which was 2.4 per cent.

“So that asset class played its role. The two portfolios are doing well,” Emond said.

He said it is challenging to compare the short-term performance of Canadian pension funds because they have e different mandates and investment models. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, for example, has less exposure to equity markets than the Caisse and more exposure to natural resources and commodities, which performed well in the first half of the year.

• Email: bshecter@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Canadian pension giant writes off $150mn Celsius investment – Financial Times

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Canada’s second-largest pension fund manager has written off its $150mn investment in crypto lending platform Celsius Network and conceded it went into crypto “too soon”.

Charles Emond, chief executive of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), said its investment in Celsius last October marked the end of its foray into the digital asset industry.

Celsius became one of the biggest names to be caught by the sharp collapse in the price of digital assets in the spring. In June it froze customer withdrawals and weeks later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York, a move that revealed a $1.2bn hole in the company’s balance sheet.

CDPQ, the $304bn investment firm that manages pension plans and insurance programmes in Quebec, said on Wednesday the stake in Celsius was written off “out of prudence”.

“For us it’s clear when we look at all of this, even if the last chapter has not been written, that we went in too soon into a sector that was in transition, with a business that had to manage extremely quick growth,” Emond said.

The group’s comments on Wednesday mark a sharp contrast to October, when it said its Celsius investment was a sign of its “conviction” in blockchain technology.

The write-off of the group’s Celsius holdings — a small slice of its overall portfolio — came as the fund manager reported a C$28bn ($22bn) fall in assets in the six months to the end of June this year. CDPQ said its portfolio was hit by a “rare and simultaneous” fall in both equity and bond markets, which led to a 7.9 per cent hit on its portfolio.

“The first six months of the year were very challenging,” said Emond, adding that its portfolio had still performed better than its benchmark, which was down 10.5 per cent.

Responding publicly for the first time since Celsius’s slide into bankruptcy, Emond said: “Whether it is Celsius or any other investment, needless to say that when we write it off, we are disappointed with the outcome and not happy.”

Emond said he was aware there were challenges regarding crypto investments, but that “perhaps we underestimated the challenges”.

He felt “a lot of empathy” for Celsius investors, and said the fund manager was “reserving our comments and exploring our legal options” related to the situation.

Asked if he regretted the Celsius investment, Emond, said: “As an investor it is a constant and never-ending learning process. You learn and make sure you don’t repeat the mistake.” He added the company never takes “any dollar loss lightly”.

Emond declined to go into detail on the internal repercussions of the investment. However, he added that “the teams will be accountable, as they always are”.

He also confirmed that CDPQ is not interested in further investments into crypto but said the pension fund manager was still optimistic on the future of blockchain technology. “The straight answer would be yes . . . you know, in these disruptive technologies, there’s ups and downs.”

What does the future hold for digital currencies? Our digital finance news editor Philip Stafford and digital assets correspondent Scott Chipolina had a broad discussion on an Instagram live about this topic, including the impact of regulation and inflation on crypto. Watch it here.

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Local startups benefit from $35000 investment – The Kingston Whig-Standard

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Kingston Economic Development Corporation is investing $35,000 in 12 entrepreneurs in Kingston through their Starter Company Plus program.

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These micro grants will aid in the growing of the local startups in getting their feet off of the ground alongside business training and personal coaching for business owners.

According to Rob Tamblyn, Business Development Manager of Small & Medium Enterprises – the pandemic as resulted in many Kingstonians pursuing their own businesses.

“We are proud to be able to offer support and guidance to them through the Kingston Economic Development,” said Tamblyn.

The wide array of businesses that will benefit from this grant span from tattoo and spa services to contracting and driving schools, he said.

“Since the pandemic, we have certainly seen an uptick in the number of inquiries from people who are wanting to go into business for themselves.” Tamblyn said, explaining the need for funding.

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Kingston Economic Development Corporation was created with the mission of supporting the Kingston economy through providing mentorship and funds to a variety of business enterprises.

Little Friday is one of the twelve businesses in the spring cohort, Soren Gregersen and Ciara Roberts, co-founders of the new video production company, spoke to the Whig about the program.

Officially opening it’s doors in February of this year, Gregersen and Roberts heard of the Starter Company Plus Program from a business that participated last year.

“We’re going to spend the money on (Search Engine Optimization) to get some online presence and a bit of money on gear so that we can up our production value and capacity,” Gregersen said, referring to the vitality of a virtual presence in early stages.

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“We’re fortunate in Kingston to be able to offer two separate cohorts, one in the spring and one in the fall.” Tamblyn said. “So we’re able to inject $70,000 into startups or existing businesses seeking to expand.”

Each year, the corporation provides $35,000 in micro grants for each cohort to local businesses with funding from the Government of Ontario. Business owners are able to receive up to $5,000 based on the strength of their business pitches, decided on by a panel of community judges.

Accepted participants not only receive funding, but also attend a week-long virtual boot camp covering market research, digital marketing, small business financing, and hiring practice to ensure that each entrepreneur is set up with the resources and information for success.

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Roberts told the Whig that the boot camp and additional resources offered by the program has been invaluable. “It gave us a week to really sit down and put pen to paper on what we wanted little Friday to be about.”

“We focused on figuring out long term goals, marketing strategies, and marketing sales forecasts (in the boot camp)”

The pair has been receiving one on one coaching from business experts where time is allotted to get specific on obstacles that arise in the early days of business.

Interested start-up owners can apply to the Fall 2022 cohort from now until September 11 through the Invest Kingston website.

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